What is it about Spring, eh? I mean, think about it. The other seasons just gradually dawn on you, don’t they? Not spring. One day it’s Winter and the next day, bang, you’re being slapped about the face with a bunch of daffodils. There’s something about the way Spring announces itself that makes it a bit different. Summer arrives in pockets of gradual sunshine. Autumn appears with the gentle rustle of turning leaves over a few weeks. Winter drifts into view with the odd ground frost and the promise of Christmas. But, Spring. Spring seems to arrive all at once in one go on one day. Clocks change, daffodils bloom, little fluffy lambs pop up in the fields, weeds sprout (more’s the pity) and our windowsills fill with trays of eager seedlings. Sure it’s still raining, but it’s different sort of rain now. It’s as if Nature flicks a switch and turns everything green.
And boy, do we lap it up. Just go into a supermarket this week and look around – it will be full of bulbs, daffodil yellow crockery, (over optimistic) outdoor dining accessories. Then there’s Easter – all the chicks, bunnies and eggs, the equinox and the train timetable change. Yes, we make a proper fuss when Spring arrives.
And I’m delighted we do, because, generally in Modern Life, nature doesn’t get much of a look in anymore. Moving to the countryside made me realise how much I had lost my connection with nature in the city and how unhappy it made me. My food came wrapped in plastic, pre-washed, trimmed, skimmed, peeled, sanitised and served in ready to eat tubs which I ate at a desk plugged into my headphones and tethered to a screen on which I would push virtual paper around a virtual world. Free range I was not. The band Stornaway had me in mind when they wrote that song about battery humans. And this lack of nature was making me properly and profoundly sad. (The working hours didn’t help either, but you get my point.)
Now I’ll admit, moving to the countryside, quitting my job and growing vegetables for a living was a pretty drastic way of reconnecting with nature. I’m not suggesting you do the same. I mean, I am, but I appreciate it’s a big sell. In the meantime, I believe we can all reconnect with nature, and make ourselves happier, by the food choices we make. Somebody clever, I forget who, said, ‘nature isn’t somewhere you visit’. You don’t have to go to the countryside to find nature. It’s right their in your shopping basket. Just buy food that has had as little as possible done to it between it coming out of the field it grew in and it arriving in your grocery bag and you’ll find yourself more aware of nature, closer to her clock and, I believe, happier.
Here are my 3 suggestions for how you can find nature again through food this Spring:
1) Plant some basil seeds in a pot on your windowsill. Do it now. Seeing an apparently lifeless seed turn into a green triffid under your care is the stuff of magic. Even if it’s devoured by aphids at least it will be nature that has broken your heart.
2) Eat what’s in season. You’ll feel the ebb and flow of nature much more. Not least when the Jersey Royals are delayed because of the cold Spring. This month you’ll be feasting on purple sprouting broccoli and radishes mainly, but you’ll be a whole lot more excited about the broad beans arriving when they eventually do.
3) Buy a whole chicken and learn to joint it (YouTube). Make a salad with the breast meat, a stew with the thighs and a stock with the bones and giblets. You’ve made use of every inch of that bird and not wasted an ounce of that life.
All these things bring me closer to nature and all make me happier. I’ve still not quite fathomed exactly why a strong connection with nature makes me happy or why a lack of nature makes me sad. One to ponder whilst digging the veg patch this Easter bank holiday I think….